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Watch for these 4 signs of sexual harassment

What exactly is sexual harassment?

There are two things that people have realized since the explosion of the #MeToo movement:

  1. Sexual harassment on the job is still way too common
  2. A lot of people still don't seem to understand what crosses the line between friendly behavior and harassment

Men and women alike seem confused at times about what is and is not acceptable.

What should you watch for in your own workplace? Any of the following things are a huge red flag that sexual harassment is likely happening (even if you don't personally feel harassed):

1. Sexist comments

Sexist remarks can come from both women and men and reinforce negative stereotypes based on gender. For example, male delivery drivers might crack jokes about how women make poor drivers in order to needle a female co-worker. Female nurses might make comments about how men aren't really suited to nurturing professions like nursing. Comments like that are destructive to the target's self-esteem and can interfere with job performance.

2. Obscenities

Catcalls, lewd gestures and "joke" gifts like tampons are really offensive, not funny. A good joke is actually funny for everyone -- not made at the expense of just one person and never sexually-based. Those kinds of things are always over the line.

3. Coercion

Sexual coercion can be overt or subtle. A manager might offer to trade a preferential schedule or treatment for sexual favors -- which is overt coercion. However, a boss that continuously hints to his secretary that he prefers to see her legs when he works -- implying that he wants her to wear short skirts -- is just as bad and just as manipulative since the secretary relies on his good graces to keep her job.

4. Physical acts

This is probably the clearest form of sexual harassment and includes any unwanted touching, including hugs, shoulder rubs and holding hands. No one should have to endure a violation of their physical space by a co-worker or boss -- ever.

If you see or experience sexual harassment in your workplace, speak out. The only way to finally end the problem is for everyone to stick together in opposition.

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